Speak / Lesson 13

How to Host or Be Hosted (especially when it involves chai)

in this lesson, we are going to cover the concept of being hosted, either at someone's house or at an establishment. Iranians love to host people. For instance, when you visit someone of Persian decent at their home, they will most likely immediately offer you tea. So in this lesson we learn vocabulary that is associated with hosting or being hosted, including the names of different beverages, and how to offer things to guest or accept offerings.


  • Names of beverages you'll be offered in an Iranian household (hint, chāi is at the top of the list)
  • The names of alcoholic beverages
  • How to offer something when you are hosting
  • How to accept or decline an offer when being hosted
  • Some polite vocabulary such as thank you (merci) and please (lotfan)


how are you?

Note: In Persian, as in many other languages, there is a formal and an informal way of speaking. We will be covering this in more detail in later lessons. For now, however, chetor-ee is the informal way of asking someone how they are, so it should only be used with people that you are familiar with. hālé shomā chetor-é is the formal expression for ‘how are you.’

Spelling note: In written Persian, words are not capitalized. For this reason, we do not capitalize Persian words written in phonetic English in the guides.


I’m well

Pronunciation tip: kh is one of two unique sounds in the Persian language that is not used in the English language. It should be repeated daily until mastered, as it is essential to successfully speak Persian. Listen to the podcast for more information on how to make the sound.

Persian English
salām hello
chetor-ee how are you?
khoobam I’m well
merci thank you
khayli very
khayli khoobam I’m very well
khoob neestam I’m not well
man me/I
bad neestam I’m not bad
ālee great
chetor-een? how are you? (formal)
hālé shomā chetor-é? how are you? (formal)
hālet chetor-é? how are you? (informal)
khoob-ee? are you well? (informal)
mamnoonam thank you
chetor peesh meeré? how’s it going?
ché khabar? what’s the news? (what’s up?)

Leyla: Hello everyone! We'd like to welcome you back to Chai and Conversation.

Matt: We're on lesson 13 of the second unit of Chai and Conversation

Leyla: As you know, in Unit two, we are dealing with language that you will use in practical situations. So far, we've learned how to deal with situations in which we can't perfectly understand the language, we've gone over numbers, and places around the town, and now we are going to cover what to do when you go to someone's house, and have to deal with tarof.

Matt: If you've been around Iranians enough, you have had to deal with tarof whether you know it or not. There are many different forms of tarof, but basically, it is the ritual of etiquette that is ingrained in the Iranian culture.

Leyla: A few weeks ago, we published a wonderful podcast called This American Life that did a nice and short piece about the intricacies of tarof. You can look it up there. But in today's lesson, we are going to deal with it in context of going to someone's house, and being offered something to drink.

Matt: As we mention every week, this podcast is only one part of chai and conversation. Bonus materials including pdf guides and enhanced podcasts can be found on our website at www.chaiandconversation.com

Leyla: We've updated our online system so that the bonus materials are easier to access. As always, we welcome your feedback and commentary. You can contact us through the webpage at www.chaiandconversation.com. But enough of that, for now, Matt, hazeree Farsi yad begeeree?

Matt: Hazeram Fari yad begeeram.

Leyla: Great! Let's Learn Persian with Chai and Conversation!

Leyla: So as we mentioned, in this lesson, we are going to cover the concept of being hosted, either at someone's house or at an establishment. When you visit someone of Persian decent at their home, they will most likely immediately offer you tea. You should know the word for tea, because we say it every single time in this program. So, what is the word for tea Matt,

Matt: Chai

Leyla; ExactlyÉ it's pronounced differently than the way we say it in the English language 'Chai.' It's Chai

Matt: Chai

Leyla: In English, the word chai is associated with spiced tea, usually coming from India. But in many middle eastern countries, the word chai simply means tea of any kind, and it's an essential part of Iranian culture. There's a whole ritual behind getting the tea ready, waiting for it to cool, eating it with sugar cubes or with pastries, and in the meantime having conversations. So again, one more time, chai

Matt: Chai

Leyla: So usually a host will come to you and say 'chai meekhoree?'

Matt: Chai meekhoree?

Leyla: Which means 'would you eat some tea.' Now, this is another big difference between English and the Persian language. In Persian, there is no difference between eat and drink, it's the same word. So 'Chai meekhoree' is the informal way of 'would you drink some tea' and 'chai meekhoreed' is the formal version

Matt: Chai meekhoreed

Leyla: Also note that before you go over to their house, they will probably already have the tea brewing, so it's no use to refuse the tea. So to say 'Yes, I will eat it' you say 'Baleh, chai meekhoram'

Matt: Baleh chai meekhoram

Leyla: Or simply 'meekhoram'

Matt: Meekhoram.

Leyla: Which means, I do want some tea. Now let's cover a few different things you could have with your tea. Often, Iranians will have tea along with some sugar, or 'sheekar'

Matt: Sheekar

Leyla: Chai ba sheekar

Matt: Chai ba sheekar

Leyla: As you can guess, ba means with. More commonly, tea is coupled with sugar cubes or 'ghand'

Matt: Ghand

Leyla: These are hard sugar cubes, and the traditional way to have them with tea is to put them in your mouth first, and drink the tea on top of the sugar cube, so that it dissolves a bit with each sip. Chai ba ghand

Matt: Ghand

Leyla: It's that hard 'gh' sound that we learned in lesson 8. Ghand

Matt: Ghand

Leyla: You could also have 'Chai ba shirini'

Matt: Chai ba shirini

Leyla: Shirin means sweet, and shirini simply means 'sweets.' Shirini

Matt: Shirini

Leyla: And now, what if you've had several cups of tea already and you just can't imagine having another one. You can say 'no thank you'. We've learned both of these words before, now let's put them together. No thank you in Persian is 'na merci'

Matt: Na merci.

Leyla: And you could follow it up with I don't want tea, which would be 'chai nemeekham'.

Matt: Chai nemeekoham.

Leyla: So Matt, I'll ask you if you want some tea, and you can say, no thank you, I don't want tea. 'Matt, chai meekhay?'

Matt: Na merci, Chai nemeekham.

Leyla: The inverse of this would be 'I do want tea' or 'chai meekham'

Matt: Chai meekham.

Leyla: So, baleh chai meekham.

Matt: Baleh, chai meekham.

Leyla: You could also be asked do you want more tea. The word for more is beeshtar

Matt: Beesthar

Leyla: So, beeshtar chai meekhay?

Matt: Beeshtar chai meekhay?

Leyla: This means do you want more tea? 'beesthar chai meekhay?

Matt: Beeshtar chai meekhay?

Leyla: So Matt, you have your cup of tea right now as we're recording, and I'm going to ask you 'Beeshtar chai meekhay?

Matt: Baleh, beeshtar chai meekham.

Leyla: Haha, that's great, but I can't get more for you as we're recordingÉ you'll have to wait a few mintues. In the meantime, let's learn a few more words for beverages you may be offered when you visit someone in their home. Another common drink is 'ghahveh'

Matt: Ghahveh.

Leyla: This means coffee. Though it's not as common as tea, coffee is also a big part of Perisan culture, especially when it comes in the form of 'ghahveyeh torkee'

Matt: Ghahveyeh torkee

Leyla: Another common drink that can also be mixed with chai and ghahveh is 'sheer'

Matt: Sheer

Leyla: And sheer is the word for milk. It also means lion even though the word lion is completely unrelated to milk. Sheer

Matt: Sheer

Leyla: So you could also say chai ba sheer, the way the british often have tea, or ghahveh ba sheer.

Leyla: You could also simply be offered water. Water in Perisan is 'ab'

Matt: ab

Leyla: You can have water with ice, ab ba yakh

Matt: Ab ba yakh

Leyla: Or water without ice, ab bedooneh yakh

Matt: Ab bedooneh yakh

Leyla: You could also be offered 'sharbat'

Matt: Sharbat

Leyla: Sharbat is a special drink that's often served when it's hot outside. It's a mixture of syrup, such as sour cherry syrup, or orange blossom syrup, with sugar and water, and ice. It's very refreshing. So again, sharbat

Matt: Sharbat

Leyla: You could also be offered 'ab meeve'

Matt: Ab meeve

Leyla: Ab is water and meeve is fruit, so fruit juice, ab meeve

Matt: Ab meeve

Leyla: One last word we're going to learn before going over all the vocabulary we've learned so far is the word for soft drink, which is 'nooshabeh'

Matt: Nooshabeh

Leyla: So nooshabeh covers all carbonated soft drinks. Generally, Iranians don't refer to soft drinks by their trade names. As in many other countries, coke simply refers to any soft drink that is dark colored, whether it is Coca Cola, Pepsi, or a generic brand, and soft drinks are often referred to by their color rather than their name anyway. The word nooshabeh covers them all. Nooshabeh

Matt: Nooshabeh

Leyla: Ok, we've learned a lot of drinks so far, so let's go through them all quickly.


Chai ba ghand

Chai ba shirini


Ghahveyeh torkee


Ab ba yakh

Ab bedooneh yakh


ab meeve

Leyla: Now let's learn two more drinks that are not allowed in Iran but are pretty common anyway. The first is 'ab jo'

Matt: Ab jo

Leyla: Again the word ab is there and jo is barley. So ab jo means beer

Matt: Ab jo

Leyla: And one final drink, also very important to Iranian culture is 'sharab'

Matt: Sharab

Leyla: And sharab means wine. You may be familiar with Shiraz wine. Shiraz is a very important city in Iran, and though Shiraz wine is no longer produced in the city of Shiraz, the grapes that are used in making it are descendents of Shiraz wineries in Shiraz. Wine is generally a big part of Iranian culture, and many famous poems have been written around the concept of wine. So again, sharab

Matt: sharab.

Leyla: And it could either be sharabeh ghermez

Matt: Sharabeh ghermez

Leyla: Ghermez means red. Or sharabeh sefeed

Matt: Sharabeh sefeed

Leyla: And sefeed means white. So sharbeh ghermez, red wine, or sharabeh sefeed, And the most common form of toast for drinking alcohol, equivalent of 'cheers' in English is 'be salamati!

Matt: Be salamati!

Leyla: and this means 'to health,' so let's drink to health!

So now that we've learned all these drinks, let's learn the vocabulary for if someone comes to your house, and you want to ask them what they'd like. You could say 'What would you like, or literally 'what do you wish for'- 'Chee mayl meekonee?'

Matt: Chee mayl meekonee

Leyla: And this is informal. The formal version would be 'chee mayl meekoneed?

Matt: chee mayl meekoneed

Leyla: What would you like to eat, which is the same as what would you like to drink would be 'To chee meekhoree'

Matt: To chee meekhoree

Leyla: for informal and shoma chee meekhoreed

Matt: Shoma chee meekhoreed

Leyla: For formal. So Matt I'm going to ask you 'To chee meekhoree?' And you'll answer what you'd like followed by lotfan, which means 'please'

So Matt, to chee meekhoree?

Matt: Chai ba shirini lotfan.

Leyla: And I can answer by saying 'bashe' which means 'ok.' So let's try this again, 'Matt, to chee meekhoree?

Matt: Nooshabeh loftan.

Leyla: Bashe.

Before we finish the lesson, I just want to note that this lesson has been introducing the concept of 'tarof', one of the most important parts of Iranian culture. In this case 'tarof' is offering someone something to eat or drink immediately when they come over, and Iranians will do this without fail, as hosting and being hosted is a BIG part of Persian culture. We'll cover this more in later lessons.

Leyla: And that brings us to the end of lesson 13. As always, thanks so much for listening

Matt: And don't forget to check out our website at www.chaiandconversation.com

with Chai spelled CHAI.

Leyla: We look forward to you joining us next time on Chai and Conversation.

Matt: And until then khodahafez from Matt

Leyla: And beh omeedeh deedar from Leyla!